INDIANAPOLIS — School districts will have to buy cameras on their own if they want to record motorists illegally passing stopped school buses while children are being picked up or dropped off.
The Indiana House revised Senate Bill 2 Thursday to eliminate the option of a private company purchasing school bus cameras in exchange for a cut of the fine revenue generated through stop-arm violations issued by local police.
State Rep. Ethan Manning, R-Denver, who proposed the amendment, said both Republican and Democratic representatives had significant concerns about third-party agreements for the purchase of school bus cameras.
"Schools are already permitted to install stop-arm cameras per the (Indiana) Administrative Code," Manning said. "So the only thing we will not be gaining as a result of this deletion is the new way of paying for the cameras."
The House also approved Manning's suggestion to give judges discretion over whether to impose a 90-day driver's license suspension on motorists who repeatedly pass stopped school buses.
The suspension previously was mandated under the Senate-approved version of the legislation.
"Law enforcement must investigate the stop-arm violation and then the court can determine whether or not to suspend an individual's license for that violation," Manning said. "We're still increasing penalties."
The plan provides that it would be a level 6 felony, instead of a Class A misdemeanor, if a motorist recklessly drives past a stopped school bus and injures a child.
The crime is enhanced to a level 5 felony, punishable by up to six years in prison and a $10,000 fine, if a motorist causes death by recklessly passing a stopped school bus.
"There's still a lot of good in this bill," Manning said.
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State Rep. Ed Delaney, D-Indianapolis, disagreed.
He said school bus safety now will depend on whether individual school districts are willing or can afford to allocate the money necessary to install cameras on their buses.
"We have a duty to have a statewide mechanism for protecting all of our children that doesn't depend upon the peculiar interests or financing structure of each of our 290 school districts, let alone the several hundred nonpublic schools that would have been helped by this bill," Delaney said.
State Rep. Pat Bauer, D-South Bend, was even more blunt: "Anything we can do to protect children, we ought to do it. And this would do it."
"Too many kids are going to die if we continue to do what we've been doing, and not protecting them on school buses," he said.
But state Rep. Matt Pierce, D-Bloomington, agreed with Manning.
"I have a very strong philosophical opposition to revenue sharing with private companies out of criminal fines," Pierce said. "I think that really breeds cynicism about the government."
"If we determine that it's important for this stuff to be on buses we should be willing to pay for it, and not rely upon a private company to essentially subsidize the thing and end up making a lot of profit along the way."
Manning's amendment was adopted on an unrecorded voice vote instead of a roll call vote, where each lawmakers' position would be publicly known.
If the House next week approves the revised measure, it likely will go to a conference committee where lawmakers from both the House and Senate will work to craft a final proposal with provisions acceptable to a majority of members in both chambers.